women make...

i've been thinking a lot about creation, art, blogging, and so on. the usual things i guess. i haven't been blogging much, and frankly it is because it can feel rather pointless. there are so many bloggers out there that if you aren't one of the big ones your voice rarely gets heard. i also questioned whether what i have to say really matters enough for it to even make a difference? i wrote before about giving up this blog, but couldn't quite let go. my creative energy has been stretched thin though, and sewing and making things is the main reason i have always blogged here. i share a lot about my family and day to day life as well, but lately it has been easier to do that in photos and written tidbits on instagram. i've also made some amazing connections there, with other like minded women especially. with women who struggle with the same questions i do. it is a nice refuge for me when i need a quick moment during the day to do something for myself. i find inspiration, support and acceptance. it's much different than most other social media experiences i've had. yesterday, i posted the photo above, with the following caption...

Thinking about what to do with these today and why I so often put off creating when it always feeds my soul? When I feel lost, why do I avoid what actually helps me feel better? It's so easy to trivialize making and creating, but I guess it's easy to trivialize a lot of things.

These are the things i am thinking a lot about. my life at the moment is about homeschooling two older children while trying to meet the demands of a very demanding toddler (who really would prefer to have my attention 100% of the day). i feel drained most days. my free moments are rare and usually come at nap time (thank god for nap time) when i try to take a break, finish household tasks and devote time to the older kids needs. evenings are pretty much the same, except i'm even more tired and do not have the aid of coffee. i tell myself i will work or create something but it often gets pushed aside in favor of housework, or frankly, doing nothing. i love to sew and work on other projects, but it is still work. it requires me to have time and energy to do it. i can't really make enough to keep a shop full these days, so i'm left wondering "is there a point to it?" it is easy as women to trivialize these sorts of creative endeavors. even if we are talented or simply just enjoy doing it, we can easily say it isn't important. if i make small animals just for the sake of making them is there a value in that? even when i am selling them i will never get paid the kind of money my husband does for the same amount of time spent working. yet, if i let it go and other women continue to do the same, what happens to those skills? i think about all the women before me who spent countless hours sewing by hand, out of necessity, or love, or both. i'm tied to those women. their labors may go unrecognized or unknown but didn't they have value? the day to day labors of women of all different kinds is what makes the world work. where would we be without that history?

my background education is in feminist theory, particularly women filmmakers and artists. i've always been fascinated by the history of women in general though, especially the everyday lives that women lead. of course i admire those women who dared to step outside of the normal realm of society to do amazing things and push for a better life and more opportunities for all women. i am grateful for that. i would never argue that a woman's place is in the home. really though, we all live in a  home of some kind, women and men, and those spaces do have a special value. also, historically women's roles have revolved around the home, the care of others, and day to day tasks that make up living. it is so easy to dismiss the work of normal women (inside the home or out). we know the things that women do are often necessary but they are also often trivialized. if i ever go back to the academic world my focus would be on women and everyday art. i love the things that women make both practical and beautiful, and often both. how we express ourselves creatively has such value, whether we call ourselves "artists" or not. just because something doesn't have a monetary value or even look like "art" doesn't mean there isn't value in making it.

the other day i read a blog post by a man admiring the work his wife did to raise their children. it wasn't patronizing in any way or encouraging all women to do that work necessarily, but he was pointing out the value that he appreciated and saw go unrecognized. one of the comments to this post was by a man who questioned the inherent value in having children. his argument was that he didn't see the big deal about making a baby because "any thirteen year old girl could do it". that dismissal struck me strongly and stuck with me. the things that women create are so easily dismissed that even making a person is considered no big deal! i see this a lot when it comes to motherhood. women are looked down on for staying home with their kids. you must not be very intelligent or ambitious if you chose to spend your time with children is the assumption. breastfeeding is seen as something gross or vulgar that should be hidden, after all isn't "man"made formula just as good or better than woman made breast milk? all that got me thinking about the term 'man made' and what it means if you say 'woman made' instead? i looked at the hashtag on instagram for #womanmade and it mostly involved sandwiches?! really?obviously there has been a tremendous handmade movement in recent years. more and more people, men and women, are finding value in the things that are created by hand. we are recognizing and trying to relearn or hold onto those skills passed down for so long, as well as creating new ones. women i think especially have found value in this movement. yet... i still struggle with this issue and i see other women doing so as well. i still feel uncomfortable at times trying to explain the things i create to other people. i know it can seem unimportant, especially if i can't claim fame or fortune from it. again, i admire the women who have achieved that but what about the rest of us, who sew or knit in the spare moments we can find just because we enjoy it? what about the handmade gifts or projects around the home or made with children? these creations have value too.

so, all of this is a long winded way of saying i thought i would start writing about some of these issues again, here on my blog and on instagram. if you would like to share some of your creative work on instagram i hope you will tag it #womenmake. i chose this over "woman made' because i think it sounds much more active and ongoing. i wanted to capture the spirit of creating in the everyday. tagging something as "made" can seem so final, and maybe make you feel it has to be important and finished. i like the idea of women making things all the time, when they can find the time or feel moved to make it! women make a lot of things. we make clothes, we make crafts, we make meals, we make pictures, we make homes, we make art from nature, we make children, we make things out of wood and clay and cloth and paint, we make old things useful or beautiful again, we make this world work! i want it to include all kinds of women, not just mothers or certain kinds of mothers. how you chose to live your life isn't really the point, it all has value. the things you make have value. hopefully we can support each other in this movement and recognize that value in each other and ourselves. i know i am mostly blogging into a void right now, but this will be a lot about finding out more about the things i'm interested and hopefully someone else may find it interesting too.


SImple and Serene Living said...

Words of wisdom, my sweet daughter. I think that much of the problem stems from the fact that our society does not reward women for their handmade works and that includes the raising of children. Coming from the perspective of my generation of women, our work of raising children produced no material rewards. We were encouraged to stay home and raise our children, but many of us were left with very little monetarily because of it. As you know, I have always sewn, embroidered, needle pointed and crafted. I learned these skills, not from my mother, but from other adult women in my life as I was growing up. It was creative work that gave me comfort when you and your sister were children. I believe that passing on handmade skills is an important part of women's culture. It is as inherent in our lives as is southern women sitting on the porch on summer days and sharing their stories. If women do not pass on those stories and the handmade skills to our children those things will die. So, I am left to wonder, how can this tradition be better woven into our society so that women can better sustain themselves. Yes, the revival of the handmade tradition and the internet are producing rewards for many women that wasn't possible in the past, but it is interesting to consider what rewards it is producing for the women who do it for the love and the tradition. Just a little food for thought. xo Mom

City of Hearts said...

I think you are lovely. I stumbled upon you serendipitously on Instagram and I am so thankful to be sharing the journey of documenting life through photos and through words with you. I often feel the same way as you have just described and my parenting journey has only just begun. I feel like I have no time for my creative outlets at the moment. Thank you for re-inspiring me.


Elma said...

I for one have enjoyed your blog and seeing you move into your beautiful home and of course your kids growing up. You are so talented and I treasure the items that I have purchased from your shop. I follow on instagram that seems to be where everyone seems to go now. I have been a stay at home mom to eight kids and while it is hard I am glad I am able to do it. So sad that my youngest is going to be tem:( Where does the time go.